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By Rohit Sharma
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The 2010 Internazionalli BNL D' Italia brings with it some really high hopes of fine quality tennis and memorable encounters, rightly so with 13 of the top 17 players in action. Although top seed and former finalist Roger Federer headlines the field, it's the four time winner Nadal who steals the limelight away from the 16 time Grand Slam champion as he comes up as the favourite for the title unanimously in the eye of tennis pundits and fans.
A mere look at the draw suggests that the road to semifinals for the third seed and defending champion Nadal is paved with names like Robin Soderling and Miami finalist Tomas Berdych. Nadal may get a stiff competition from German Philipp Kohlschreiber in a possible second round meeting. However, his real test comes in the quarterfinal where he can meet either Swiss claycourt specialist Stanislas Wawrinka or the man who beat him on several occasions last year, Robin Soderling.
If all goes well, Nadal will set up a mouth-watering semifinal clash with top seed and former finalist Roger Federer, who hasn't been able to lay his hands on the presitgious trophy in Rome till now. Federer will get a golden opportuity to settle scores with Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis in the second round. Other big names in Federer's quarter are Indian Wells champion Ivan Ljubicic and giant-killing American Sam Querrey. Spaniard Nicolas Almagro is also capable of pulling an upset or two, however when it comes to Federer, things somehow take a U-turn for other players.
The bottom half of the draw showcases an interesting line up with second seed and 2008 champion Novak Djokovic placed in the same quarter as Fernando Verdasco. The Spaniard is in swashbuckling form and with a confidence boosting win over the Serb last week in Monte Carlo semis, Verdasco is in the eyes of everyone. Verdasco's major challenge till the quarterfinals may come in the form of either Lleyton Hewitt or Mikhail Youzhny, who slug it out early on in the opening round.
The other quarter of the bottom half boasts of some of the finest claycourt players of the past decade. Fourth seed Andy Murray, who is perhaps seeing the worst phase of his tennis career currently, can find his revival on Roman clay if he gets past challenges like David Ferrer, Juan Carlos Ferrero and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who is the seventh seed here.
The most interesting aspect of the draw is that apart from an early expected clash between Nadal and Federer, the seeds have been very evenly placed. The absence of players like Nikolay Davydenko, Andy Roddick and Juan Martin Del Potro has opened a window for many stars from the challenger brigade in men's tennis to come forward and showcase their talent at the grand stages in the draw.
Follow the nail-biting action happening on the red clay of Foro Italico with TennisEarth.com and get the minute-by-minute updates of the 2010 Internazionali BNL D'Italia.
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